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Over 11,500 dead in India
22,000 persons missing in Car Nicobar
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 28
As more and more bodies are being swept ashore, the death toll due to Sunday’s tsunami waves is rising fast along the south-eastern coast and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The total death toll in India has crossed 11,500 and if those missing after 60 hours when the killer wave struck are assumed dead the total figure in India will surpass the death toll in Sri Lanka, which till now is being said to be worst hit.

The death toll in the three states of south India—Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala—is now around 6,500, while the figure has crossed the 5,000 mark in the Andaman and Nicobar islands and rapidly increasing. By tomorrow morning the total death toll in India will be around 13,000.

The numbers of persons missing in India’s southeastern coast and the Andaman and Nicobar islands is estimated to be a mind-boggling figure of around 22,000. In Car Nicobar alone which was ravaged by the Tsunami, 3,000 bodies have been recovered so far and 7,000 are still missing.

Sunday’s tidal wave was sparked off following a massive earthquake measuring nine on the Richter scale under the sea near the Indonesian coast triggering the Tsunami, which gathered high speed to crash on the shores of Sri Lanka and India 200 km away from the epicentre.

Being relatively closer to the epicentre the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were the worst hit among the Indian states.

Even this morning eight aftershocks of the Tsunami hit the Nicobar islands leading to large-scale panic among the islanders.

Relief operations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands were affected as large parts of the islands are still submerged and in many places like in Car Nicobar, which has been devastated, the extent of the destruction is yet to be ascertained as communication lines have been snapped.

In Car Nicobar island, the Indian Air Force station was smashed by huge tidal waves and washed away including the quarters for officers. The runway is cracked and still under water. More than 100 Indian Air Force personnel were swept away by the waves.

The high waves destroyed most of the buildings belonging to the IAF and in the officers’ quarters many rushed on top of the buildings to escape but were swept into the sea by waves, which rose above 40 feet.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who toured parts of Tamil Nadu today along with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, confirmed the death of 27 Air Force officers in the Andamans.

He said there was no trace of 70 more IAF officers who went missing from Sunday.

The most affected in the Andaman and Nicobar islands are the tribals many of whom are faced with extinction otherwise and had been living there since ages. They have lived off the islands for generations and could not grasp the aftermath of nature’s fury, silently weeping mourning the loss of their kith and kin.

Those who migrated recently from India’s mainland are battling the blow and directing their ire on the administration complaining of inadequate relief and complaining that rescue operations were not being carried out properly.

In the Andaman and Nicobar islands, it will take a long time to assess the extent of destruction of lives and properties.

The Indian Navy and the Air Force are jointly carrying out relief work in Car Nicobar.

Meanwhile, in Tamil Nadu, the Union Territory of Pondicherry and Karaikal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala more and more bodies were recovered.

In Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, which has been worst hit among all the districts in India, death toll today crossed over 4,000 as at a small village Velankenni 3,000 bodies were discovered.

Among the dead were 500 pilgrims who came for Christmas to visit the famous Velankenni shrine from places as far as Bangalore since it is the most famous Christian shrine in Tamil Nadu.

The district administration took pictures of dead bodies and conducted mass burial and cremation today of the unidentified bodies.

Majority of those dead in this district belong to the minority communities with 70 per cent being Muslims and around 15 per cent Christians.

The district of Kanyakumari, on the southern-most tip of the country, is second with the death toll today rising to 1,000 while the number of dead in Cuddalore today stood at 469.

In this metropolis, the figure stood at 155 though many bodies are being swept ashore in faraway places from the Marina Beach from where the sea had swallowed them.

In the Union Territory of Pondicherry and Karaikal 100 and 355 persons are dead so far and many more still missing.

In neighbouring Kerala, the death toll rose 156 today with 120 people dead in Kollam town alone. Following weather office forecasts about fresh Tsunami onslaughts, islands around Cochin have been evacuated.

In Andhra Pradesh though the official figure is only a little above 100, more than 800 people are still missing.

In Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, the police and some local people were praised for their effort in rescuing those affected who were mostly tourists.

The police is usually infamous for arriving late in any given situation but in this fishing village struck by Tsunami, which destroyed houses of the fishermen, they rushed to help the local people to rescue the hundreds of tourists who had gathered on the beach to take a dip.

They moved them to nearby buildings which have been converted into relief camps.

India’s nuclear power at Kalpakkam, 80 km from here, remained closed for the third day today but the authorities assured that water, which had gushed into the plant had receded and there was no risk of any radiation hazard. More than 60 persons died at Kalpakkam.

Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy Anil Kakodkar today said that only a construction site of the plant was affected and no plants were affected due to the Tsunami. He said, “There is absolutely no issue related to radiation as a result of this particular incident.”

People here appreciated the postponement of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the state as he apprehended disruption of rescue and relief operations.

Ms Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Mr Mukherjee and Union IT and Telecommunications Minister Dayanidhi Maran, Tamil Nadu Congress president G.K. Vasan, this morning visited the Foreshore Estate on Marina Beach.

Ms Gandhi and Mr Mukherjee later visited Nagapattinam.

The BJP President, Mr L.K. Advani, accompanied by his predecessor, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, began his two-day tour of Tamil Nadu from Kanyakumari and visited the Tsunami affected areas.


Car Nicobar Air Force base badly damaged
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 28
As reports came in of at least 300 persons being stranded along a narrow strip of land off Oachira in Kerela’s Allapuzha district, the Indian armed forces stepped up efforts to provide relief to thousands of people hit by the tsunami in Car Nicobar in Andaman and Nicobar islands.

While the Indian Air Force (IAF) has started the restoration work of its badly-damaged base in Car Nicobar, relief is being provided to the still stranded people and the residents through continuous sorties and evacuation efforts by both the Air Force and the navy.

The IAF base at Car Nicobar which housed more than 1,000 Air Force personnel and their families saw extensive damage in the tsunami which hit the Indian coastline and the South-East Asia. Although initial reports had suggested that there was no damage to the equipment and the aircraft at the base but reports now said that six MI-8 maritime helicopters and transport planes were damaged when the huge waves smashed into the base.

As the region faces fresh threat from fresh tidal storms in the Bay of Bengal, the authorities have so far evacuated about 2,000 persons from Car Nicobar, Nancowry, Greater Nicobar and other areas which were among worst hit areas. Navy ships and helicopters have also managed to reach Campbell Bay for the first time since Sunday’s catastrophe.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash said here that the rescue operations at sea are over and the forces are now concentrating on building up disaster management camps on shore on war footing. He said the armed forces were invoking emergency financial procedures to enable command headquarters and rescue teams to procure portable generators, water pumps, food and medical supply to be rushed to the islands as well as eastern coastline areas.

Defence authorities said 25 war ships, 40 transport aircraft and an equal number of helicopters have been pressed into service to mount the biggest ever relief and rescue operation.

While the IAF has lost more than 100 of its personnel, nearly all the transport planes including giant IL-76s and medium size AN-32s were flying continuous sorties to Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar.

Moreover, the IAF was also assisting the civilian authorities in Sri Lanka and Maldives in similar relief missions by pressing into service MI-17 helicopters and transport planes.

Officials said the air base in Car Nicobar was operational for helicopter and transport plane flying after the engineers carried emergency repairs on the runway.

The base would be fully operational within six months, including the residential accommodation for the personnel. It was learnt the helicopters and transport planes escaped damage as they were parked on the apron some distance away from the sea shore. However, the entire brunt of the furious waves was borne by the residential colony located right on the beach and officers and men and their families were swept away.

Incidentally, this base is strategically located to cover Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Pacific Rim.

The preliminary exercise of testing the facilities for fighter jets there was scheduled for January 5 followed by permanent deployment there. Sources said the exercise was now indefinitely postponed.

Meanwhile, the Navy activated all its ships along the east coast and some more ships were sailing for a major relief operation in Car Nicobar in the next 48 hours.

In fact, two ships had already reached the worst affected island and started relief operations including providing medicines and food to the air force personnel and civilians. Officials added that at present at least 25 ships were engaged in operations all along the east coast and Andaman and Nicobar.

This island on Tuesday received more than 40 tonnes of food, drinking water, tentage and medicines, generator sets and pumping sets to flush out water from the flooded areas.

The Army brigade, which comprises the tri-service command, was also pressed into service for these operations, officials said. They said the focus of their relief operations was now the scores of islands in the union territory as the people had to depend on supplies from the main land in Port Blair and the services were airlifting medicines and food to these places.

The Army had also fanned out in some of the worst affected districts of Tamil Nadu and at some places it was also acting suo-moto to provide relief to the people. Engineers and infantry soldiers were clearing the roads and repairing bridges in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, officials said.Back

Kalam cancels celebrations
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 28
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has decided not to have any celebrations at Rashtrapati Bhavan on New Year as a mark of respect to thousands of people who lost their lives and the many more left homeless in tsunami devastation on Sunday in India and other countries.

“Unlike in the previous years, the President will not receive Rashtrapati Bhavan employees or visitors to exchange New Year greetings on that day,” the Rashtrapati Bhavan authorities said. Back

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